Movie Review – ‘The Circle’

Review by J.T. Johnson


DIRECTOR: James Ponsoldt
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Matthew Libatique
WRITERS: James Ponsoldt, Dave Eggers
MUSIC: Danny Elfman

How is it that one film can assemble such a talented cast and completely waste every single one of them? “The Cirlce”, based on a novel by Dave Eggers, is a film made for conspiracy theorists in the digital age. The movie’s main message, apparently, is that social media is bad and is the end of all privacy as we know it.

Before I get into the rest of the review, let me tell you about the one thing that I do like about this film. For the most part, it boasts an incredible cast… Okay, moving on.

The movie sets up an almost cult-like society surrounding the Circle, a powerful facility that houses the world’s largest internet corporation. I would tell you exactly what they do, but I’m not entirely sure as the film doesn’t really care to dive into that too much. What we do know is that the Circle’s leader, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), wants the entire world connected by tiny cameras and for there to be no more secrets.

There was something else about having the members of the Circle also be required to vote in elections or something. I can’t really remember, I was so bored at that point.

What I do remember is that he uses the latest young tech worker, Mae Holland (Emma Watson), to become totally “Transparent”. This means that she will always wear a camera and that every part of her life will be broadcast to the world. At first, everything is alright but things ultimately take a turn into a boring thriller. At this point, the filmmakers decide to forget the movie’s initial message (social media is evil) while it stumbles aimlessly towards an ending that is terribly underwhelming and is so bad that it actually made me angry when the credits started rolling.

Anyone with even a marginal sense of how social media works cannot believe how insanely paranoid the writers of this movie must be about the digital age. Nothing makes sense, it has no point after about 45 minutes and, worst of all, it’s an absolutely boring movie to watch.

I said that the cast was mostly good but there is one weak link in the chain. Ellar Coltrane plays Mercer, an off-the-grid friend of Mae’s that can’t believe how she has been totally sucked into this world known as the Circle. As he says in the movie, “We used to go on adventures. We used to have fun and see things and now it’s all filtered through this.”

He’s supposed to be the charming potential love interest for Mae. I guess that Coltrane can be a good actor when he wants to be, but in this movie he has about as much charm as a piece of cardboard.

Of course, it would also help if we had maybe gotten to know the character better. In fact, I wished we had gotten to know anybody better than we actually do throughout the story. Hanks, Patton Oswalt, Karen Gillan, and John Boyega are all wasted in this movie playing two dimensional characters that I’m already having trouble trying to remember.

“The Circle” had the potential to tell a decent story about the dangers of social media and the addiction to being connected all the time. Instead, they tried to make a sinister story about two guys (Hanks and Oswalt) trying to take over the world with their internet company and the one woman they try to control in order to do that. My ultimate takeaway from this film is that I can’t believe that a film with an impressive cast such as this ultimately turns out to be one of the worst films of the year.

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